Pub. 5 2024 Issue 1

President’s Message – Energy Abundance Is the Key To Living the Lives We Want To Live, Writ Large

If you type the word “epistemology” into Google — and really, who hasn’t and why wouldn’t you? — the very first definition reads, “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.” Basically, epistemology is the study of how we come to know what we know. It attempts to understand the nature of knowledge.

I thought about this word a lot as I listened to our keynote presenter at our Annual Meeting in March. Chris Wright serves as chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Liberty Energy. Chris is a dedicated humanitarian with a passion for bringing the benefits of energy to every community in the world. This passion has inspired a career in energy, working not only in oil and gas but also in fusion, solar and geothermal. Chris embraces all sources of energy if they are abundant, affordable and reliable.

His presentation was titled “Energy, Climate and Prosperity,” and he brought with him 35 illustrative and exhaustively researched slides that utilized data from, among other places, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been at the forefront of discussions about climate change since its inception in 1988. Environmental advocates tend to take the recommendations of the IPCC as a bond. You’ll hear the words “scientific consensus” uttered a lot with regard to the IPCC.

Yet what Chris presented was data from the IPCC in a way I had never seen before and, frankly, didn’t even know existed. Because if you happen to hear anything from the IPCC, it’s usually filtered through media or environmental NGOs, couched in doom speak and foreboding tales of rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, and a planet in crisis on the verge of collapse. Yet what Chris’s research consistently demonstrated was that things are not nearly as bad as many would have you believe, and the gains made in environmental outcomes and overall human quality of life have been achieved due overwhelmingly to one factor: energy abundance.

Energy abundance lifts people out of poverty. That higher quality of life is the biggest contributor to every environmental gain in human history.

One needs to look no further than the island of Hispaniola for direct evidence of this. On one side, you have the Dominican Republic, which years ago incentivized its citizens to utilize natural gas cookstoves instead of burning biomass, chiefly wood. On the other half of the island is Haiti, which did not make the same switch. When you see photographs taken from above, you can see the border clearly between the two countries.

On the Dominican side lush and thriving forests. On the Haitian side, a denuded and more barren landscape because the trees have all been harvested and burned for fuel. Haiti suffers from energy poverty, a problem that infects nearly every other aspect of life. Only about 38% of Haitians have access to electricity. By comparison, in the Dominican Republic, 98% of the population has access to electricity. Every economic and quality of life metric has the Dominican Republic far outpacing its island neighbor Haiti.

This is a perfect illustration of the insidiousness of energy poverty and one of the main reasons I keep coming back to the term “epistemology.”

If you’re a humanitarian in the least, you want to reduce human suffering. The easiest way to minimize human suffering is by giving communities access to, as Chris says, energy that is “abundant, affordable and reliable.” It makes me wonder why the United States federal government continues to pursue policies that seem to make energy less plentiful, more expensive and intermittent. As societies rise out of poverty, they also often reduce their environmental impact (for more on this concept and a similarly data-driven approach as Chris articulated, check out “Apocalypse Never” — the audiobook playing on my regular drives to and from the basin).

Technology is not a panacea in terms of solving all the issues we face. Still, when it comes to energy development, technological breakthroughs are usually a pretty reliable leading indicator of real change and progress. See, for example, roughly 20 years ago when our industry combined horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing and how much clean-burning natural gas that it unlocked.

Energy abundance is the key to living the lives we want to live, writ large. The world demands energy. It’s up to us to help set the course for the energy we use. There’s much I’m still learning about this industry, but that I know.

In this edition of UPDATE you’ll see lots of photos from our Annual Meeting along with the winners of our Environmental & Safety Awards, the winning photographs of our Wildlife & Energy contest, a rundown of this year’s unprecedented legislative session and lots more. Thank you for taking on the heavy lifting of setting the course for the energy the world needs.

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